The Athens-Clarke County Commission sent the mixed-use development proposed for the St. Joseph Catholic Church site back to the planning commission Tuesday night at the developer’s request.
“Homes Urban remains committed to the basic concept of the plan,” but three issues recently came up that require the Greenville, SC-based developer to reconfigure it, Athens lawyer Jim Warnes told the commission.
Homes Urban has not been able to line up a commercial tenant for the building fronting Prince Avenue, Warnes told Flagpole in an interview. (Which means, apparently, that Daily Groceries won’t be moving into the space after all.) In addition, construction bids came in “significantly higher” than expected, Warnes said, and the developer is facing timing issues related to tax credits for development in low-income areas.
Once the plans are revised, Warnes said Homes Urban will hold another round of meetings with neighbors, then resubmit the plans to the planning department, a process he said could take about four or five months.
The commission also approved plans to tear down the Barnett Shoals Kroger (as well as the old K-Mart) and replace it with a gargantuan Walmart-style store like the one on Highway 72. The new shopping center will be oriented toward College Station Road and include a couple of out-parcels for restaurants.
Kroger representative Ron Hawkins said the new store will feature “click list,” a service where customers buy groceries online, then an employee will bring them out to your car at the store for $4.95.
Commissioner Andy Herod, who represents the Eastside, said Kroger is open to his idea for a mural on the new store’s long, blank wall. One Kroger in Atlanta also incorporated public art, he said.
“People like shopping in places that have a sense of place to them,” he said.
Fellow Eastside commissioner Sharyn Dickerson said the trees in the plan are “awesome.”
A Kroger fuel center on Baxter Street was also approved unanimously. Although it won’t include a coffee shop as ACC officials had hoped—Jittery Joe’s didn’t think Baxter was a good corridor for business, Hawkins said—the fuel center will include a convenience store and some outdoor seating that should make the street at least a little more vibrant.
Stores with fuel centers tend to do better, and Alps customers don’t want to drive out to Epps Bridge to use their fuel points, Hawkins said.
The commission also voted 9–1 to approve a massive subdivision and apartment complex off Atlanta Highway, previously known as Winslow Park (but minus a proposed hotel and commercial space), when it was first approved in 2004. Approval came in spite of concerns raised by Commissioner Jared Bailey about developer Walton, Georgia LLC’s business model: The company syndicates its developments, buying up land in growing areas, then selling shares to overseas investors and flipping the property to another developer who actually builds the project. Tracts often sit vacant for years.
Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, who has been fighting to keep suburban-style development on Atlanta Highway, defended the plans, saying that they will help revitalize the corridor, and they’re specific and binding enough to rule out a bait-and-switch.